Justin Erenkrantz

English 112 - Sec. 5

Sunday, March 7, 1998

Don't Move - I Have A Gun And I Am Not Afraid To Use It

In The Television Industry Must Police Itself, Leonard Eron tries to prove that violence on television causes real-world violence. Mr. Eron ends up proving the exact opposite scenario. Mr. Eron does not start off on the right foot. He starts us off by claiming that there are over two hundred studies that offer convincing evidence that the "observation of violence?does affect the aggressive behavior of the viewer." Mr. Eron does not bring any of these studies for our review. Without citing some of these studies by name or their affiliations, we can not judge their merits. After all, a study could be conducted by a high school student, but his study would be nothing compared to a professional's research study. Therefore, we can assume that these two hundred studies, while appearing to be a preponderance of the evidence, is nothing more than hearsay.

Mr. Eron goes onto discuss the television industry view of censorship and how they claim it is a violation of their First Amendment rights. He mentions that Western European governments have censored television and films for years. They do not permit the showing of gratuitous violence and curb the amount of violence during the hours that children usually watch television. Mr. Eron forgets that in Europe most countries do not have something akin to our First Amendment. The governments censor simply because they can (and that they can get away with it). In the United States, free speech is one of our most cherished institutions. Americans do not like having their First Amendment rights trampled upon. Mr. Eron also neglects to mention that Western Europe shows a lot more nudity than their American counterparts. One American cable channel, HBO, has a recurring program that shows us what those "violence-free" people watch on a regular basis. These European shows are characterized by frank sexual discussions that would be revolting to most American viewers. Likewise, we discuss violence in an open manner that might be shocking to most European viewers. The reason that the Europeans do not complain about the violence is that they think violence is revolting. In the United States, network television can be (and usually are) condemned if they show an actor's butt. Mr. Eron needs to remember that different societies have different values. One size does not fit all.

Mr. Eron goes on to claim that television violence is not entirely to blame for the violence epidemic, but it is responsible for some part of it. He mentions that at least we can do something about television violence. Mr. Eron does not give any reasons for us to believe that television is even partly to blame. It is quite possible that he expects us to believe those phantom studies from the beginning of the essay. Mr. Eron does not tell us where we should draw the line on television violence. It is possible that he thinks we should go back to the television of the 60's where the most violent show on television was the Three Stooges. It is also possible that he thinks that the violence should be toned down a notch. Mr. Eron does not tell us what he wants to do about the problem. If you introduce a problem for examination, you must introduce a solution. Mr. Eron fails to do that.

Mr. Eron commits a blatant post hoc fallacy in paragraph five. By this point, Mr. Eron has apparently forgotten his own premise that television creates violence. In this paragraph, he basically states that violence creates television viewing. Hmm? He says that inner-city children are living in a world of violence. They are surrounded by violence at home, school, and in their own neighborhood. They are forced to cower in hallways, dodge bullets, hide under tables because the streets are so dangerous. Therefore, they spend more and more time watching television. Mr. Eron paints a pretty bleak picture for the inner-city children. It sounds like the television violence is nothing compared to what they face on a daily basis. So, why should we be so concerned about what they are watching? We should not be. They are safe inside watching a innocuous television program. If this is the case, we should applaud television for drawing them inside and giving them a respite from their harsh lives.

Mr. Eron really makes a case that television follows society, not the other way around. Television is doing exactly what it was intended to do: portray human life as it really is. We have come a long way in the last thirty years in the television realism. Television is no longer dominated by Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky and Lucy, or even the Beaver. Instead, we watch real characters, such as Andy Sipowicz and Mark Greene, doing real things. They have their strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, the characters seem human unlike the preternatural Harriet Nelson. The '60s were a feel-good era, but the '90s is a real-good era. In a world surrounded by violence, we should expect television to portray it that way. If the writers do not portray the stories realistically, then we begin to lose interest in the show. However, if the they represent the stories and characters effectively, we can then begin to truly enjoy television.